Well, after a three week hiatus, I am finally back on the blogging train. I made a promise to myself that I would continue on with this blog and not quit it like I have most of my other ventures, so after a break from burning myself out from watching so many movies in such a short period of time, I have returned (also three weeks is a ridiculously long time to keep DVD’s from Netflix). The movie that marks my return was neither great nor as bad as I thought it would be, and at times turned out to be an enjoyable dramedy with some serious pacing and mood whiplash issues. I am referring to 1990’s Mermaids starring the always fabulous Cher, Winona Ryder fresh off the success of Heathers, the under-appreciated Bob Hoskins, and an extremely young Christina Ricci.
First things first. Mermaids is not about actual mermaids. It tells the story of the Flax family, led by single mother Mrs. Flax (Cher), who is never given a first name and is often referred to by said title by her daughter Charlotte (Winona Ryder). The family is rounded out by the youngest daughter Kate (Christina Ricci). The Flax family moves often because whenever a relationship fails or there is any trouble in their lives, Mrs. Flax simply moves the family somewhere else by closing her eyes and pointing at a spot on the map. The film takes place in the 1960’s, and Mrs. Flax is no June Cleaver, let’s put it that way. She sleeps with men on the first date, she smokes, she curses. She’s pretty much Cher playing herself. The family is ethnically Jewish but despite this, Charlotte is obsessed with Catholicism and wants to be a nun when she gets older. Kate is a fantastic swimmer. The film begins with the family moving to a new town in Massachusetts and the conflict of the film arises from Charlotte falling in love with the caretaker of the local convent (who looks like the unholy love child of Matt Dillon and Billy Crudup) and Mrs. Flax beginning to date a local businessman (Bob Hoskins), and the natural clash of personalities between mother and daughter.
When the movie first started, I thought I was in for a quirky family comedy. I did not expect this film to be as dramatic as it was. The further and further the film goes along, it tries less and less to be humorous and more and more to explore the dynamic of this rather complicated family. Thank Christ that Winona Ryder was such a fantastic actress when she was younger. I honestly can’t think of a female actress who was able to embody teenage angst as well as her until Linda Cardellini came along for Freaks and Geeks a decade later. Maybe that’s why her career disappeared after she grew up. But in this film and in Heathers, she really plays the emotional turbulence of being a teenager just spot on. Her inner monologues are always fantastically delivered. And Cher is a surprisingly good actress as well. Now, maybe, I don’t have to be so skeptical of her Oscar win for Moonstruck. However, the movie’s constant shift in tone and emotion can be really disconcerting. It’s not that individual scenes fail (except for the emotionally overwraught scenes after Kennedy’s assassination); it’s just that they don’t all work very well together. Although that’s kind of what being a teenager is like, but I really doubt that was intentional.
Well, this movie left me conflicted. I thought Winona Ryder was absolutely fantastic and definitely deserved the Golden Globe nomination she received for the film, and Cher and Bob Hoskins were both great as well. And certain parts of the story worked really well for me. However, it was so all over the place in tone and mood that I could never really get comfortable with the film, and certain parts were just too ridiculous. If you love Cher (as I do. I don’t care that she’s like 70; she’s still gorgeous) or Winona Ryder, you should check it out for nostalgia’s sake. But don’t expect too much.
Final Score: B-